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How to make pesto with fresh basil

If you have a lot of fresh basil to use at the end of summer, then making basil pesto is a great way to use it. Not only is it delicious, but it also will store much longer than basil will last fresh. 

How to make fresh basil pesto

How to make fresh basil pesto

Making homemade basil pesto sauce is a great way to use up fresh basil. Basil pesto is very versatile, it can be used for so many recipes, as a sauce for pasta, or bruschetta, or as a dip or spread.

If your basil plant has just started to flower or you are at the end of the growing season, try whipping up a big batch of this classic basil pesto sauce.

Scroll down for the printable card for this fresh basil pesto recipe, or read on for all the details.


Quantities for all ingredients are given in the recipe card below.

Fresh basil: Traditional basil pesto uses Genovese basil, but you can use any variety of culinary basil. Sweet basil is particularly good.

Use freshly harvested basil if possible. Alternatively, you could try using another herb in place of basil. Parsley, oregano, or chives all make great options.

>> Related article: How to make oregano pesto

Garlic: Use fresh garlic cloves if you have them. Alternatively, you can use crushed garlic paste from a jar. I wouldn’t recommend substituting garlic powder.

Extra virgin olive oil: use the best quality olive oil you can get, cold-pressed olive oil is the best.

Parmesan cheese: Use freshly grated Parmesan cheese if you can. This is another ingredient that will really affect the taste of your final pesto.

You can substitute pecorino romano cheese or Granada Padano if you like. Or try making a vegan pesto by using nutritional yeast in place of Parmesan.

Pine nuts: Switching out pine nuts for another kind of nut (walnuts, pecans, or almonds work really well).

Salt: I use kosher salt, but fine sea salt is a fine substitute.

Fresh basil pesto ingredients: basil plant, garclic cloves, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts.
Fresh basil pesto ingredients.


Step 1: Gently wash the basil under cool water and pat dry with paper towels.

Step 2: Light toast the pine nuts in a frying pan or skillet.

Step 3: When the toasted pine nuts have cooled, add them to a food processor with the other ingredients.

If you have whole sprigs of basil, there is no need to pick each basil leaf off the sprig of basil, just put the whole sprig in the food processor.

Step 4: Pulse the ingredients in the food processor until well combined and the right texture has been reached. A shorter time for chunky pesto, or pulse for longer if you prefer your pesto smoother.


Homemade pesto sauce can be used in so many recipes, basically anything you want to add some fresh herb flavor to.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Make simple pesto pasta by stirring a tablespoon of pesto through freshly cooked drained pasta.
  • Make a creamy pesto sauce for pasta by mixing ½ cup heavy cream to ½ cup pesto and stirring though pasta, or serving over chicken.
  • Top chicken breast with ½ tablespoon pesto before roasting in the oven.
  • Serve with a cheese platter.
  • Mix with sour cream to make a quick dip for chips.


Pesto is best served fresh, but if you want to make it ahead of time, or for any leftover pesto, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can pour a little olive oil over the top surface of the pesto to keep it fresh and prevent it from oxidizing (turning brown).

It should keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

To store it for the longer term you can freeze it. Try making pesto cubes in an ice-cube tray. Then you pop out a portion or two as needed.

Use frozen pesto directly in sauces, or defrost it in the refrigerator before use.

Recipe Card

Fresh Basil Pesto

Fresh Basil Pesto

How to make classic pesto with fresh basil.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts


  1. Washthe basil and gently pat dry.
  2. Toast the pine nuts in a small dry frying pan or skillet.
  3. Place all ingredients into a food processor bowl.
  4. Pulse until they are well combined and the desired consistency.
  5. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze in small batches for later use.

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